Schneider's World: Back to Back

Jan. 1, 2020
If industry events have the potential to enrich our lives both personally and professional in such powerful and profound ways, why there aren’t more of us doing it?

I don’t like to leave the shop. My wife is convinced I’d live there if I could, and I’m not sure she’s altogether wrong. In fact, with the number of hours I spend at the shop and/or the number of hours I spend just thinking about being there, my guess is she’s convinced I’ve already moved in — mentally, if not physically.

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I’ve thought about it a lot and I’m certain the discomfort I experience when I’m away from the shop isn’t grounded in any lack of trust I might have in the people I have surrounded myself with. That may have been the origin of the strain and anxiety I experienced while away from the shop in the past, but it isn’t the reason for my discomfort today.

I’m uncomfortable when I’m away from the shop because, quite frankly, there aren’t many other places I’d rather be. There aren’t many places I feel as comfortable either, especially now.

I say, “especially now,” because it’s taken a while to get here. It’s taken a while and a lot of hard work to have more things going right than wrong…or, at least, to feel as if that’s the case.

That’s a lot to think about when you’ve been out of the shop for eight days (out of town, cross-country for 10). It’s a lot to think about when seven of those 10 days have been spent with hundreds, actually more than a thousand, other shop owners at two meetings focused on a more successful future for us and for our industry.

That is a lot to think about, but I’m not sure there is anything more important with which to occupy our time or our minds. The question has to be why participating in industry events like these is so important. If they have the potential to enrich our lives both personally and professional in such powerful and profound ways, why there aren’t more of us doing it?

I wish I had the answer.

Who am I kidding? I wish I had an answer. But I don’t. Nor, am I sure anyone else does. I do have a theory, more than one, in fact.

The first is relatively simple. Despite the fact that more professionals in our industry are attending more and more events focused on personal and professional development, our industry still has not come of age. There are far too many automotive professionals who still don’t understand or appreciate the fact that we are what Peter Drucker identified as Knowledge Workers: individuals involved in life-long learning and continuous professional growth and education.

There are still far too many of us who have no idea how critically important exposure to new concepts and different ideas has become — ideas that take you out of your comfort zone, ideas and concepts that seemingly have nothing at all to do with fixing cars.

There are too many people who still believe that education and experience are mutually exclusive, that you can accomplish your goals and objectives simply by figuring it out along the way. Too many individuals who don’t appreciate what kind of a head start the right kind of education and training can provide.

If you don’t value education, if you remain uninterested in post-professional training, you won’t seek it out. And, if you aren’t willing to seek it out, you certainly won’t make the sacrifices necessary to take advantage of it even when it is delivered to your door.

The second reason has to do with Abraham Maslow’s work in behavioral humanistic psychology and his Hierarchy of Human Needs. But that is anything but simple. It suggests that we cannot aspire to the next level of human development unless or until we have first satisfied our present needs.

Maslow identified five levels of human needs, the first of which is physiological: the need for food, water, comfort, sex, sleep, etc. These are brain-stem function needs, limbic system needs. They are primitive, almost prehistoric. If you are hungry, cold, wet or thirsty, all you are likely to care about is getting something in your belly, finding someplace warm to rest, quenching your thirst and drying off.

The second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy is the need for security, the need to feel safe economically, psychologically and physically.

The third is the need to belong. That’s the drive to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, like a family, tribe, clan, group, company, association, etc.

The fourth is esteem, or the need to think well of yourself, the need to be thought well of by others.

The highest rung on Maslow’s Ladder is self-actualization, or the ability to figure out what it is you want or need and the wherewithal to go out and get it. That is something like the kind of education or training that is available at events like the two I just attended.

If you look at the numbers, it isn’t hard to make the connection between Maslow’s work and our current reality. Less than 15 percent of the industry is affiliated with anything. As a whole, we still suffer from the same poor self-image and low self-esteem issues that have plagued the industry for generations.

What does that tell you about you, me, this industry and belonging or esteem? It tells you the vast majority of us have not gotten beyond the ability to meet our most basic physiological needs: our most basic need to feel safe and secure.

It tells us something else as well. It tells us a little bit about self-actualization and the fact that the less than 15 percent who are affiliated are likely to belong to more than one group and access education, training, personal development and growth whenever and wherever they can find it.

They might even be willing to do what I did: leave the shop, fly across the country and then drive across Florida to attend two meetings, back-to-back. Two meetings with countless opportunities to learn, grow and interact with other automotive professionals involved in service, manufacturing and distribution in less than 14 days!

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